The London Lions beat the Newcastle Eagles by a final score of 93 to 86 in an exciting game at the Copper Box. The lions displayed excellent team basketball, with the starting 5 of the making double figures in scoring as they punched their ticket the post-season.
The visiting Newcastle Eagles came into tonight’s game against the London Lions with a 9-1 advantage in their last ten games played. The Eagles brought with them a fantastic away following, matched by the Lions’ faithful, which helped create a playoff atmosphere inside the Copper Box.
The Eagles lead at the end of the first quarter 26-23, after a frenetically paced period of play. The visitors sprinted into an early lead capitalising on some early mistakes from the Lions and employing their characteristically ferocious defence. The Lions struggled to get into their flow early in the quarter, but Alex Owumi forced improvements on the Lions when he was subbed in scoring 7 points, including the go-ahead 2 from the line.
The second quarter started in a similar style to the first, but it was the Lions making the most of some sloppiness and mental errors from the Eagles. Twice in as many possessions the Eagles turned the ball over whilst making the inbound, contributing to the Lions clawing back Newcastle’s slender lead.
The Lions’ swingman Navid Niktash got into his flow in the second, with his signature hustle on the defensive end and ability to make baskets at the other. A lovely step back jumper tied the game up at 33-33, demonstrating both his shooting ability and his post play.
Late in the half, a second Eagles turnover for stepping in on the inbound put the ball back in Taylor’s hands. The Lions Point Guard made no mistake beating three men attacking the rim for two before Williams gave the Lions a 10 point lead. The Eagles stopped the bleeding with a long corner 3 from Martin, but it was the Lions who headed into the third with a 52-43 lead.
The Lions dominated early in the third with an excellent display on both sides of the ball limiting the scoring of Newcastle effectively whilst finishing their chances in the paint. Hassan, who played well all game had a huge quarter on his way to a double-double. Hassan fought out of a quadruple team under the basket before kicking out to Kai Williams for a made 3. The Lions defence was noticeably improved, with no Eagle left unguarded and but it didn’t tell on the scoreboard as both sides made 15 points in the quarter as the Eagles roared back with a strong finish.
The fourth was a back and forth affair with both sides making huge baskets to cancel out each other. The Eagles started the fourth quarter the stronger, converting off early turnovers and an early 3 from Scott Martin narrowed the gap to just 3 points in under a minute. Kai Williams, made an open 3 to give the Lions a little breathing room but Fletcher answered with a three of his own from the top of the arc. It was a back and forth affair. On the very next play Owumi would beat the shot clock with a floater but Jackman would answer with a running floater of his own to keep the gap to just 3 points.
Hassan’s rebounds were enormous for the Lions keeping the lead, throughout the quarter as was the passing and game management of game MVP Zaire Taylor. The Eagles kept the score close and scored frequently but the Lions would go down the other end themselves. The Eagles got themselves in foul trouble in both the third and the fourth quarters allowing the Lions to rack up vital points at the line.
With 1:02 remaining on the clock Navid Niktash drained a corner three which was met by thunderous cheers from the Lions fans forcing the Eagles to call a full timeout to talk things over. Fletcher would answer back with a corner 3 of his right away but Taylor scored on a running step back floater to keep the lead at 8.
Parks travelled on a sure fire two points that all but settled the game as the Lions stretched the lead to 9 points with just 31 seconds remaining in the game. The late game fouling from the Eagles was not effective as the Lions picked up the win against the Eagles in London for the first time since 2013.